|Wednesday, 10 March 2004|
|Security||Today's Top Story|
by Ranga Jayasuriya and Manjula Fernando
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission has ceased patrolling in areas held by Karuna in Batticaloa and Ampara as the breakaway Eastern Tiger Commander insisted on a fresh ceasefire agreement with the Government rejecting an amnesty offered by the Tiger Leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.
"For the time being we are not patrolling in the areas claimed to under Karuna's control", SLMM spokeswoman Agnes Bragadottir told the Daily News.
"Karuna says he is not bound by the truce agreement", she said. In the face of the deepening crisis between Prabhakaran and Karuna, British High Commissioner Steven Evans yesterday met LTTE political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvam and reiterated the necessity to ensure free and fair elections giving the voters full freedom to exercise their franchise.
Evans who led a British delegation to Kilinochchi to express his views was quoted by the Tamilnet that Thamilselvam briefed him on the prevailing political situation in Ampara and Batticaloa.
Norway's peace envoy Erik Solheim - who arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday - is expected to visit the Wanni today to meet the LTTE leadership.
Meanwhile, Batticaloa District Assistant Elections Commissioner Krishna Anandalingam said the present crisis in the LTTE would have no effect on holding the general election in the Eastern Province.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, he said no violent incidents has been reported in the cleared areas of Batticaloa district up to now, following the estrangement between the Eastern LTTE military commander and the Tiger leadership.
Earlier, a UNP candidate and an EPDP supporter were killed in the Batticaloa district allegedly by the LTTE, but since then there had been no serious incidents in the area despite a major split in the LTTE.
A Reuters report quoted analysts as saying that Karuna's anger over the candidate list for the TNA - which was vetted by the Tigers - was one reason behind his decision to break away.
Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan alias Karuna earlier rid himself of the responsibilities of the truce agreement however assuring that he will not provoke a war with the security forces.
"We were not party to the Agreement, but we will not provoke a fresh bloodshed," a spokesman for Karuna's Eastern headquarters told the Daily News.
"Even though we respect the truce, for practical reasons we need a fresh agreement with the Government, the spokesman, Varathan said.
An AFP report datelined Batticaloa yesterday quoted. Karuna as saying in an interview with the agency that his fighters would not return to fighting with Government Forces."
Lives sacrificed should be meaningful," Karuna said, adding: "If one has to make it meaningful, it means going away from war. If we are to enter war again, it means we are going to lose precious lives again.This is the present reality".
Meanwhile, sounding defiant Karuna rejected an offer for an amnesty by Prabhakaran ending efforts by a religious delegation to help resolve the standoff.
"The offer itself is ridiculous, it is the Northern leadership who should seek pardon from us for all the discrimination we underwent at their hands," Varathan said.
"The Eastern Tamils sent their sons and daughters to protect the Northern land. But our sacrifices went unrewarded, unnoticed. We were made cannon fodder".
On Monday, LTTE political chief S.P. Thamilselvam meeting a religious delegation led by Batticaloa Bishop Kingsley Swampillai offered to pardon Karuna, if he quits the LTTE without provoking a war.
Thamilselvam charged that Karuna was trying to bring dissension to the LTTE in order to "cover up his wrongful action" in contravention of the organisation's norms.
Karuna's spokesman however said the Breakaway Tiger Eastern Commander has already established his reign in the uncleared areas in the East and a new administrative structure has being put in place..
The pro - LTTE Tamilnet yesterday dismissed reports that Paduman, the LTTE's Trincomalee District Commander had been killed in the Vanni.
The LTTE on Monday convened a press conference to deny the reports that Paduman was killed or under detention. Paduman attended the media briefing and denied Karuna's statement that he was under detention at Kilinochchi.
But Eastern sources however said Paduman had been stripped of his rank, pointing out that Paduman was clad in civvies. Earlier, Varathan said Paduman, a colonel in the LTTE ranks, was under detention fearing that he would join Karuna.
The East came to a virtual standstill on Monday as shops and schools were shut and people took to the streets supporting Karuna and burning effigies of Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman.
However sources from Ampara and Batticaloa said the region returned to normalcy yesterday and shops and schools were open as Government offices functioned as usual.
Produced by Lake House